Having totted up numerous acting milestones, Manoj Bajpayee in his latest movie sets out on the road not taken. Apoorv Singh Karki’s Bhaiyya Ji sees Bajpayee literally trying to rise above the competition. Bajpayee’s avenging angel sails through the air on invisible wings, fuelled by vengeance as well as the ambition to lead a Telugu-style masala movie.

Singh Karki has previously helmed the web series Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt Ltd and directed Bajyapee in the film Sirf Ek Banda Kaafi Hai. The director works visibly hard to retrofit his leading man’s skillset into a retro tale of righteous revenge.

Ramcharan (Bajpayee) and his stepmother (Bhagirathi Bai) dote on Ramcharan’s brother Vedant (Akash Makhija). Vedant makes the mistake of crossing Abhimanyu (Jatin Goswami), the psychotic son of the dastardly gangster Chandrabhan (Suvinder Vicky).

Chandrabhan likes to slice up his victims. Abhimanyu is open to all forms of dispatch. Dad, why don’t we get our own crematorium, he wonders. Chandrabhan quite likes the idea.

Sadly for them, they have picked the wrong fish to fry. Ramcharan has earned his “Bhaiyya Ji” moniker. He has a fearsome past, a slavish following and a mother with fury tucked into the folds of her sari.

Suvinder Vicky in Bhaiyya Ji (2024). Courtesy Bhanushali Studios/SSO Productions/Aurega Studios.

Goons are lifted right off the ground; only some bullets find their mark; wounds heal miraculously. Geography is challenged along with credulity.

It’s unclear where the movie is taking place, with Vedant and his tormentors in Delhi, Ramcharan somewhere in Bihar, and their eventual battlefield presumably in between. Bhaiyya Ji has several characters and scenes that similarly go nowhere.

Suvinder Vicky, of Kohrra fame, hams with subtlety, if that is even possible. Ramcharan’s mother, played by theatre veteran Bhagirathi Bai, is so over the top that she frequently levitates above Bajpayee. Bhagirathi Bai can safely headline her own Amma Ji spin-off.

At least in some sections, Singh Karki and writer Deepak Kingrani manage to spice up a standard-issue vendetta drama. Welcome black comedy pops up every now and then in a 138-minute movie that itself feels like a parody at times.

A bunch of cute old codgers gives Ramcharan well-placed advice. Ramcharan’s entire backyard enthusiastically turns out to support their Bihari hero. Ramcharan’s girlfriend Mitali (Zoya Hussain) too earns her place in a movie that centres on his all-round awesomeness.

The saga has a foregone conclusion, with its end predicted by its beginning. The unofficial English translation of Bhaiyya Ji could well be O Brother, Why Art Thou?

The vendetta mission suits Bajpayee as does caviar a vegetarian. Bajpayee is more convincing in the scenes when he learns of Vedant’s fate, and is so shocked that he can barely speak.

Bhaiyya Ji (2024).